So we just finished watching season three of Battlestar Galactica. It’s a pretty great show (and Julie likes it too, which reduces the geekiness factor as far as I’m concerned). The performances are above average for science-fiction TV, and the direction is very strong.
I’ve been most impressed, however, by the strength of the writing. As Cory Doctorow likes to say, all science fiction isn’t about the future, it’s about the present. I’ve really admired how the BG writers have taken on a schwack of contemporary topics–torture, military justice, terrorism, racism and so forth. For example, several episodes function as cutting criticism of American foreign policy.
I have a few outstanding questions about the show, but the one that’s most frustrated me is this: how big, exactly, is the Cylon fleet?
Do they have 1000 of those big base ships, or eight? I think the most we’ve seen is four or five, but I’ve got no idea if that’s the same four or five, or entirely difference groups (they don’t have license plates, so they’re hard to distinguish). Unless I missed it, the humans haven’t exactly exhausted much brainpower in counting the opposition.
Did I miss something?
On a related note, I wanted to discuss a particular aspect of the final episode of season three. I’ve included it after the break, so that if you’re still catching up, there won’t be any spoilage. If you’re such a person, read the comments at your own risk.
All Along the Flight Deck
I immediately recognized lyrics from Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”–I forget what the first one was, and was pretty shocked to discover a contemporary reference in this actively unearthly show. As far as I can recall, this is the only example of a, uh, 20th century cultural reference.
Did it work? I’m not sure. At first I thought it was hokey, but when I thought about it more, it might make sense. Let’s assume that the show is set in the future, and the 13 colonies originally departed ‘our’ Earth some time after 2007. Just as we remember and retell 2000-year-old Bible stories, wouldn’t they possible retain fragments of ancient stories and songs?
So, having “All Along the Watchtower” in their genetic memory is a bit like us recounting the story of Noah’s flood. What do you think?
Here’s a lyrical analysis of the song which I pretty much entirely disagree with. I’m guessing if the writers are drawing any connections, they’re thinking much more specifically and short-term. For example, Baltar is “the joker”, 6 is “the thief”, Lee Adama has become “a businessman” and so forth.
And here’s a discussion of the particular sitar-infused recording by a composer on the show.